“With Ernie what I found was, could we be on the same wavelength? Would he build team with eight or nine first-round picks? Could he make trades? I thought trading Gilbert was impossible. I thought trading Rashard was impossible.
Q. Blatche was impossible.
A. [Yeah that one . . .]
Q. Last question. Is this all a Jedi mind trick? You know, where you keep telling people, ‘Yes, we will be good, we will be good.’ Like Luke in Star Wars, ‘You will take me to see Jabba.’
A. [Laughing] You know what, though? I believe that enthusiasm, positive culture — the players seeing your making investments — [make] players want to play here. Nene is probably case in point. ‘Oh my God, I’m going to Washington. Hey, I just met the owner. You know what? I kind of like the owner. Hey, I just spent some time with the young players. I think they’re going to good. Hey, we’re playing pretty good. You know what? This is a great city. Geez, I was unhappy with the trade. Now I’m really happy with the trade.’ So I mean, it happens. So I do think that positive force of will and energy is good.
When you write about Andray now, that’s one of the bad things. He played and he would get booed by the fans. Bad for the fans, bad for him. Right? Not a positive, energetic act. So I do believe changing a culture, a business and franchise takes an inordinate amount of [mimes moving a large weight]. And we did it fast.
Now it might be that’s a weakness. When you have that much change, you got to mesh together. How are they going to manage the minutes? That’ll be the challenge. How do they play the vets while continuing to develop the young players, which are assets? We’ll see.
Two days later, Leonsis responded to the following follow-up questions via e-mail.
Q. Adam Oates is a very popular hire on many fronts. How happy were you to acquire him? Also, were you disappointed when Dale Hunter decided not to coach the Caps beyond this season?
A. George McPhee and Dick Patrick hired Adam Oates as they hired Dale Hunter. They run hockey ops. I always respected Adam as our captain, and I knew him to be very analytic and very professional. His work in Tampa and New Jersey prepared him well for this job, and I was very happy that he was available to be interviewed and when George told me he was the best fit. I said congratulations to us. I believe this will be a very good match for our team and for the system he implements. So I was happy.
Q. Was Dale’s tight-lipped personality, his seemingly uncomfortable nature in front of a microphone and his inability to really communicate at times with his players, cut-out for the position of a long-term NHL coach?
A. Dale was a great coach. I am grateful that he came in mid season to help us and we went to game 7 of second round so he had a successful season..He developed our team with a much more responsible defensive posture. It was apparent though by his actions at season end that he wasn’t happy being away from home and his family. When someone really says “ I want to go home”; how can you be mad?
Q. And given his limiting of minutes with Alex, would you have definitely retained him if he wanted to stay?
Q. I was reading quotes from two years ago about how much you thought signing Blatche to an extension was a great idea. Two years later, does this qualify as your biggest disappointment of owning the Wizards’ thus far?
A. Yes — we made a mistake — although the NBA has had close to $250 million of amnestied players to date — sometimes you get a chance to take a mulligan under the new rules and that is what we did.
Q. Who bears the most responsibility for the fact that he didn’t work out in Washington?
A. We are all in it together — so we are all to blame. Buck has to stop with me though as owner. I appreciate Andray’s apology to the fans and I hope he is able to turn around his career.
Q. Given your belief in redemption, was it particularly hard to cut him loose?
A. No, it wasnt. It was in best interest of franchise.
Q. Biggest regret past two years owning the Wizards?
A. Why are you so focused on past? It is only 2 years time, I have no regrets .
Q. Biggest regret past year or so owning the Caps?
A. NOT winning a Stanley Cup yet for our fans and community.
Q. I was thinking about your book, “The [Business] of Happiness.” Did you ever think that that pursuit would involve cutting someone a check for $23 million NOT to work for you?
A. It isnt emotional with me in any way. There was a new CBA — there was an amnesty clause — we could use it if we wanted — the coach and GM and several players said we would be a better team if we used it. 15 other players have been amnestied to date, it is a tool that can be used now .So we used it.